A week ago, University of South Dakota administration declared in an email that USD will officially become a smoke-free campus as of Jan. 9, 2013.
And that was it.
No more discussion as to a plan of action. No more discussion as to how this ban will supposedly be enforced.
The nine-sentence email sent about the Executive Committee’s decision was as bare-boned as it comes, and has left everyone affected in the dark.
Yes, the Executive Committee reviewed the smoking ban resolution. But was there an actual plan presented?
Yes, President James Abbott said the committee “listened to students who overwhelming supported further limitations on smoking on campus.” But did these limitations include a smoke-free campus, and how many students constitute as overwhelming support?
Yes, smoking is hazardous to your health. But does that give the Executive Committee, the Faculty Senate and the Student Government Association the right to regulate what legal substances people choose to consume?
The most startling aspect of the announcement is not even the vast number of questions that arise from the lack of information, but the false impression that a majority of the student body is behind the ban.
The email said that in a campus poll performed Feb. 8, 2011, 62 percent of students wanted more smoking restrictions. What the email fails to mention is only 12 percent of the student body actually voted in the poll, so 62 percent of 1,192 students actually wanted more restrictions last year.
And there’s the other misnomer of this infamous poll. The statistic referred to in the email asked if students wanted more smoking restrictions on campus, not if they wanted a smoke-free campus. When the poll did ask if students wanted a smoke-free campus, 52 percent voted yes, 48 percent said no. This is not mentioned anywhere in the email.
If the administration wants students to follow a campus-wide statute, law or mandate, then it needs to be the responsibility of the university to supply those most affected, like incoming students, the truth up front.
Misinformation aside, SGA has yet to present a statement to the student body as to how this ban would be
Most likely, enforcement will be left up to the university police, which only have 10 certified police officers and four security officers, two that are part-time. UPD Director Pete Jensen said in a Volante interview last year about the smoke-free campus resolution that, “The UPD is here to enforce the law, not university policy. We never have in the past, and honestly, we have others duties we have to perform during each shift, so we couldn’t be patrolling for smokers all day.”
While USD may officially be a smoke-free campus in the books by January 2013, the real question is whether this designation will actually resonate with the current student body as the decision is clouded in the uncertain.